Even though the “uberization” of business aircraft is taking place due to COVID, Bombardier has decided to remove the Iconic Learjet Line at the end of this year.
The landscape change on the part of Bombardier makes management concentrate on the Challenger and Global lines.
The company made its announcement during its annual earnings report for 2020. Over 1,600 employees at the Wichita, Kansas plant will be eliminated.
In the article Bombardier selling CRJ’s to Mitsubishi, I explain why Bombardier wants to exit the business altogether.
Also, Bombardier tried to sell the Private Jet Business to Textron, which conversations did not succeed.
Too much competiton can hurt an ailing company
I believe this was one of the best times for the Learjet market segment, but Bombardier pulled the plug. While the company says it is a cost-saving move many analysts I talked to said Bombardier’s competition intensity within the small and medium market accelerated its end of production.
Embraer with its Phenom 300 and its sister the 100, and lastly, the Honda Motor entry in 2015 with the HondaJet led to its quick demise.
“If anything killed the Learjet line, it was the Phenom investment and entry.”
“The waters now are very full of sharks and it’s a tough place to make money for Bombardier, so they moved away.”Rolland Vincent, a private-jet industry consultant based in Plano, Texas.
With smaller jets, more range, and more forgiving to fly the Learjet had become an antique. One that from an innovator which celebrities like Frank Sinatra to James Brown used as symbols for success.
Certainly the cost was a main factor:
- Bombardier Learjet 75 Cost: $13 million.
- Embraer Phenom 300 Cost: $9 million.
The Wichita plant becomes a maintenance and service center while production ends. The move also ends the productive lives of 250 employees at the end of the year. However, it will continue to be their test center for the remaining lines.
The Legacy of the Learjet
Bombardier’s purchase of the Learjet line was a level of sophistication and speed that rivals competition at the beginning. With time passed, and lack of innovation Bombardier became a stymie company that didn’t know how to innovate; at least on its Learjet line.
If one looks over to the Global Express and the Challenger lines for the middle-large market one might see a different perspective: Aircraft capable of crossing continents, fly faster, and able to stand up on a jet.
As I recounted in the previous article, the amount of debt was the culprit to remove the little Research and Development Bombardier gave to its Learjet line. Bombardier gave themselves their ticket out of the market.
The competition saw that and took the opportunity to learn and observe Learjet’s weakness. Bombardier gave the competition what it is not supposed to give to a competitor: Time.
Sleeker lines, better aerodynamics, faster speeds are the tenet of American William P. “Bill” Lear, encountered in the Swiss FFA P-16 single-seat fighter.
The Rich and Historical Bloodline of the Learjet
The U.S. Air Force, NASA, and even Frank Sinatra used the plane, showing how popular it was among those who could have one.
Frank Sinatra traded his French-made Morane-Saulnier MS.760 Paris Jet for a brand-new Learjet 23 in 1965.
Also, in 1967, Frank lent the jet to Elvis Presley to marry Priscilla Beaulieu in Las Vegas. Furthermore, the same plane gave Sammy Davis Jr and Marlon Brando a lift to Mississippi to join Martin Luther King Jr on a freedom march.
Learjet not going from our skies anytime soon
Those who have Learjet models 40 and 45 Bombardier has a re-manufacting line called Learjet RACER. Increasing the focus of its customers on providing parts and service.
The Learjet will still be in our skies for the foreseeable future in the hands of contractors. Providing services to our Armed Forces around the world provides for a popular choice. These sorties include adversary air support, including electronic warfare and target towing.
Business needs to be at the forefront of innovation and technology
…otherwise it gets thrown into history
It is a pity that a name with so much history written in aviation needs to retire. However, it is the price a company pays if one isn’t nimble or becomes one.
While Bombardier took its time to break into commercial aviation, the debt it accumulated was the Achilles heel of the company. That left the R&D (research and development) without any room to maneuver.
Unlike Bombardier, the competition didn’t waste any time in seeking an opening. Embraer found a better way, a cost-effective, smart way of constructing a lighter plane that cost much less than its rivals. That is why they are #1 in the light jet category.
I would like to see the Learjet back but in a redesign. Dazzling customers with new product technologies and better spacing like the Phenom has done.
However, in this case we can say for now that the Learjet has been a trailblazer, opening the path for other companies to swoop the industry in a better, cost-effective manner that is decreasing the cost of private jetting for everyone.
Featured image: Wikipedia.